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10 Reasons for Short Naps

Updated: Dec 27, 2018

The nap time hustle is the real deal! But if you have a wee one who is never breaking that 45-minute nap, that nap time hustle can seem more like a daydream!

What constitutes as a “short nap”?

Short naps are usually less than 50 minutes long. This is because babe isn’t making it from one sleep cycle to the next!

Why are short naps such a problem?

Short naps are a result of babes not being able to transition from one sleep cycle to the next. Babes who have short naps are not getting that restorative daytime sleep they need. The result is a cranky and overtired baby. When little ones are having short naps during the day it can actually impact nighttime sleep! Signs you will see are nightwakings and early morning risers.

Another complaint I often hear from mommas who have short nappers is that they feel stuck at home because baby takes frequent, short naps. It is time to look into what is causing short naps and how to solve them!

10 Reasons for Short Nappers

It is important to understand that short naps can be caused by a variety of factors, so it is important to identify WHY babes only sleeping for 30-45 minutes.

So, let’s walk through the Top 10 questions to ask yourself to find the root cause of short naps.

1. Age And Development

If your little one is under 4 months old, this is a good reason for short naps. Children just start to have consolidated sleep and lengthened naps around the 4-month mark. In this case, it is completely okay for baby to be napping anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. During this age and stage we can still use tools to help lengthen naptime. If your little one wakes after 20 minutes, but still seems tired, offer that babe a snuggle while you rock them back to sleep. Yes, we want to ensure good habits, but we also need to respect their sleep needs at this age (and enjoy those amazing cuddles too)!

2. Bedtime Routines

Before placing your little one in their sleep space, we want to implement a nap routine. This is a ~5 minute routine that we do before each nap. A great routine is; Walk upstairs saying ‘it’s naptime’, into the room for a diaper change, place in sleep sack, turn on sound machine & turn off lights. Then walk over to the crib and sing 2 songs, while cuddling, before placing your babe down. This routine should be consistently the same each day. It help cue baby that it is time to sleep!

3. Their Sleep Environment

The Baby Cave. When we create ‘the baby cave’ we are eliminating any light in their room. Light actually makes it difficult for baby to fall asleep and stay asleep- it signals them that it’s daytime. Blackout shades are wonderful to help block that light out. You also can use something as simple as garbage bags taped underneath the blinds (these are great to have on hand for travel too)! How dark is dark? Walk into your baby’s room during the day (sometime around naptime) and extend your hand out in front of your face. If you can see your hand-it’s not dark enough!

4. Making Sure Babe is Ready for a Nap

We want to be aware of our babies needs. It is important to watch our little ones to identify those ‘sleepy cues’ while keeping an eye on waketimes to guide us. As babies grow and develop, we can use these waketimes to help guide us to an age appropriate (and predictable schedule) for our little ones. Check you this blog post (coming soon) on guidelines for scheduling in the first year. If baby seems to be fighting those naps, we want to make sure baby is actually tired enough for their nap! Sometimes babes need a bit more waketime (without hitting that overtired state) before their nap. If they are just not tired enough, putting them to bed too early won’t help their drive to sleep. You can start by making those wake windows an active time. Do lots of tummy time, practice rolling/crawling/walking, getting outside or having some excitement in your day can help. Adding 10 minutes onto their waketime can be just enough to improve that sleep drive!

Please remember that babies who are overtired also have short naps- so use those wake time guidelines. If your little one is staying up an hour longer than the average wake time for their age, try putting baby down 15 minutes earlier instead!

5. The Pre-Nap Nap

Babies need to develop their sleep drive before going down for a nap. If your little one is having a quick 10-minute snooze in the car, or at the breast, before going down for a nap that sleep drive is interrupted! If you are doing errands in your car, try heading back towards home before your little one hits that peak in their sleep drive- If you find them nodding off-singing, clapping, or rolling down that window to help keep babe awake until you get home will fight this off.

If your little one nods off at the breast or during a feed, try moving that feed 10 minutes before bedtime and do it in a bright room (outside of the nursery) to help keep baby from that pre-nap nap.

6. Prime Catnap Time

Babies who are 5-8 month olds often need 3 naps a day. The 3rdnap is often a catnap, ranging from 30-45minutes. This is actually the perfect length. The purpose of this nap is to help bridge nap #2 to bedtime (so we aren’t putting our little one down to bed at 4pm!)

7. Hangry

Lots of people will tell you that you can stretch out those feed times, but some babies just don’t thrive on a rigid feeding schedule. You CAN feed your baby before a nap, just use the tip above to help keep baby full while avoiding that pre-nap nap!

8. Sleep Props/Sleep Associations

Babies naturally move from one sleep cycle to another anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. If your baby needs a paci to fall asleep and it pops out, they will need it again during that sleep cycle transition. You can scatter 5+ paci’s around the crib to help make it easy for babe to grab a new one and pop it in. Make sure you practice this skill during the day, to help babe find it easily during nap/bedtime. The same thing goes if your little one is falling asleep at the breast- simply move this feed 10 minutes before nap time and in a bright room. Remember- we will need to work on self-soothing as we make this transition!

9. Self-Soothing

If want to help our little ones get more sleep, the best thing we can do is help teach our little ones to put themselves back to sleep. This eliminates the concern of getting through those sleep-wake cycles both during nap times and at night. If you need help with this, please don’t hesitate to contact us. There are a ton of methods that can aid your little one with this!

10. First, Night Sleep!

It is so important that we realize that night sleep is the first thing to consolidate. We want to ensure that your little one is getting the sleep they need at night before we tackle those day naps! Sweet Little Dreamers works through night consolidation and daytime naps to help your little one get the overall sleep that they need!

If, despite all your efforts, you are still struggling with naptime, contact us to see how Sweet Little Dreamers can help.


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